May 12, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

The Dark Crystal Ball of “The Handmaid’s Tale”

“When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Constitution, we didn’t wake up then either.”

There’s no way to quantify just how scary it is to watch Elisabeth Moss in “The Handmaid’s Tale” – white bonnet, red cape and all – tell the story of the collapse of Western Civilization in muted voiceover. Hearing her talk about the days leading up to the end doesn’t feel like fiction. It feels like a summary of current events. It’s only a truly brilliant horror movie that can blur the lines between fiction and reality so effectively that a viewer becomes afraid to shut off the television for fear they’ll be shutting off life itself. And “The Handmaid’s Tale” is brilliant horror.

What’s impossibly, deeply chilling about Hulu’s new adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel is that you can be sure almost everyone who sees it will find it scary in the exact same way, for the exact same reasons. Atwood’s tale of a dystopian, anti-feminist future is, at heart, a story of the deep helplessness of good in the face of evil. To call it ‘prescient’ or ‘timely’ is an understatement. It’s paralyzing in the same numbing way of watching the doomsday clock tick closer to midnight.

To be fair, this probably wasn’t the showrunner’s intention. Bruce Miller’s adaptation the famously unfilmable book was underway long before a certain unexpected presidential hopeful announced his candidacy. Certainly, Trump’s election helped with marketing for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but the prestige Hulu show didn’t exactly need help. As a streaming service, Hulu had been taking its time to produce an independent series that could match the output of its competitors in bravery, polish, and queer political relevance. Netflix had “Orange is the New Black” four years ago. Amazon had “Transparent.” Hulu knew they had to step up their game to compete in a world of increasingly feminist-oriented social justice stories. They also knew their own version had to be just as addictive.

And so it is. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” partly due to the sheer horror of its premise, partly because of the way it is cast, shot, cut, and sound-mixed, is impossible to turn off. Opting to release the first three episodes on the launch date instead of all (like Netflix) or one (like HBO), Hulu sucker-punched its audience into sitting through nearly three hours of pain, hopelessness, and a world breaking under the weight of fear.

Without drawing pointed conclusions or current-day parallels (they’ve sped up the timeline from Atwood’s novel so as to reference Tinder, Uber, and a host of other Internet-age delights) “The Handmaid’s Tale” uses Elisabeth Moss’s Offred (formerly June) to show us how a culture allows itself to revert to a violent, puritanical standard. When Moss is trapped and caught, separated from her husband and child and forced to be a “handmaiden” whose sole function is to bear children for the new high-ups in society, she’s put through a rigorous training, along with her fellow handmaids, told about how being gay is sinful (“gender-traitors,”) and how showing strength or independence as a woman is not allowed. Though Offred (all the female names are changed to reflect the fact that they are now a man’s property) tries to keep up appearances on the outside, we’re invited into her head to hear about the slow, desperate rebellion she and a few others are cooking up. Small things give her hope – like the fact that her “walking partner” Alexis Bledel is a lesbian rebel, and her “commander” (Joseph Fiennes) likes to play Scrabble.

It’s a thoroughly bizarre world that “The Handmaid’s Tale” inhabits, one that’s painful to observe – almost too painful to keep watching. But we do keep watching, just in case we see a glimpse of hope for own future reflected in the end.

Related Posts

Ellen DeGeneres Under Fire For Admitting To Driving Under The Influence

April 30, 2021

April 30, 2021

Ellen DeGeneres is under fire for admitting to driving wife Portia DeRossi to the hospital while under the influence.  While...

Tina Turner Documentary Breaks Records

April 4, 2021

April 4, 2021

Singer, song writer and gay icon Tina Turner released a documentary on HBO Max as a farewell to her fans...

First Gay Teen Captain America Revealed By Marvel

March 28, 2021

March 28, 2021

Marvel Comics has revealed the first look at a new Captain America who happens to be a gay teen.  The...

32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards

March 21, 2021

March 21, 2021

GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today announced a new slate of...

New Grindr TV Show

March 18, 2021

March 18, 2021

The popular LGBTQ dating app Grindr is getting its own original scripted TV show set to air this fall. Bridesman...

Anti-LGBTQ Talk Show Host Rush Limbaugh Dies At 70

February 18, 2021

February 18, 2021

Controversial talk show host Rush Limbaugh died on Feb. 17th from complications of lung cancer at his home in Palm...

Hal Holbrook, Actor Who Played Mark Twain, Dies At 95

February 3, 2021

February 3, 2021

Hal Holbrook, the actor best known for his accurate portrayal of Samuel Clemens — better known as Mark Twain —...

Award Decorated Actress, Cloris Leachman, Dead At 94

January 27, 2021

January 27, 2021

Cloris Leachman, Oscar and Emmy winning actress, has died at the age of 94 from natural causes at her home...

Iconic Talk Show Host Larry King, An LGBTQ Ally, Dies At 87

January 23, 2021

January 23, 2021

Larry King, the iconic talk show host and LGBTQ ally died on Saturday Jan. 23rd.  A statement was posted on...

Betty White Will Celebrate 99th Birthday In Quarantine

January 14, 2021

January 14, 2021

Gay Icon and legendary actress Betty White turns 99 on Jan. 17th and has some wild plans to mark the...

L.A. Makeup Artist Is First Trans Man To Compete On “RuPauls Drag Race”

December 13, 2020

December 13, 2020

The cast of RuPauls Drag Race Season 13 has been announced this week revealing its first trans man contestant will...

Real Housewives Star Comes Out As A Lesbian

December 10, 2020

December 10, 2020

Braunwyn Windham-Burke star of Real Housewives of Orange County has come out as a lesbian.  In an interview with GLAAD...

East Hollywood Man Appearing on Wheel Of Fortune

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Tim Quinn, an East Hollywood resident, will be a contestant on the hit TV show Wheel of Fortune on Wednesday,...

Anne Heche Eliminated From DWTS

October 11, 2020

October 11, 2020

After four weeks on season 29 of the ABC reality dance competition Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) Anne Heche has...

An Apologetic Ellen DeGeneres Returns To Daytime TV

September 30, 2020

September 30, 2020

Using technology to it’s advantage for its 18th season The Ellen DeGeneres Show returned to a virtual studio audience on...